Indianapolis GP Named Best Grand Prix by MotoGP

At the conclusion of each GP season, an awards ceremony is held to celebrate the year’s champions, crowning the top riders in each category, the top manufacturers, and even the top venue for the season. This year, the honors of the latter went to familiar locale, as the Red Bull Indianapolis GP round was named the “Best Grand Prix” of the 2014 season, making it the first North American round to receive such an honor. Selection criteria for the award included consideration of the venue, promotion, and overall facility operations. For the 2014 race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again repaved its infield section, making alterations to several turns in order to facilitate passing and adding to the track’s overall consistency.

Up-Close with the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200

If there’s a motorcycle that launched at EICMA that I wish we had given more coverage to, it would be the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200. The new adventure-sport machine from Ducati is all-new for the next model year, though it would be hard to tell it from the photos. Even our modest collection of “up-close” photos here don’t do justice to the venerable Multistrada. The face of the Multistrada 1200 has been reworked, with the “beak” softened a bit from its falcon-like profile. The intake inlets are larger in appearance, and the headlight housing is noticeably different with its six LED projectors for the Ducati Corner Lights system (on the “S” model). This perhaps makes for an interesting “face” on the motorcycle, and like its predecessor, you will either love it or hate it.

Marco Melandri Returns to MotoGP, with Aprilia

After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season. Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules. The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli. For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain.

Up-Close with the Honda RC213V-S Prototype

I can’t decide whether to be elated or disappointed over the Honda RC213V-S prototype, which was debuted this week at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. On the one hand, the RC213V-S lived up to the hype…literally a MotoGP race bike with lights, mirrors, turn signals, and a license plate. On the other hand, for all the waiting and consternation from Honda, what they brought to Milan was a fairly derivative and obvious design. Rumors of a true MotoGP-derived sport bike from Honda have been circling for several years now (closer to a decade, if you’re a reader of MCN), and the project borrows the ethos found in the Ducati Desmosedici RR project, another exclusive GP-bike-for-the-street motorcycle.

The Ducati Streetfighter 848 Is Spared the Axe for 2015

The Ducati Streetfighter lives for another year, as Ducat is showing off the Ducati Streetfighter 848 as a 2015 model year machine at the EICMA show in Milan. There had been doubts about the Streetfighter 848 continuing to be a part of the Ducati lineup going forth, especially as the Italian company has moved away from the 849cc v-twin platform, favoring the 821cc engine variations for the Hypermotard the Monster lines, and the 899cc Superquadro for the Panigale. The Streetfighter was never a big hit in the world market, becoming more of a cult classic machine amongst riders. Combined sales with the Hypermotard account for roughly 20% of Ducati’s annual sales, with the Hypermotard doing the majority of the heavy-lifting in that regard.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Prototype

Cruisers really aren’t our cup of tea here at Asphalt & Rubber, which might explain the lack of coverage for America’s gift to the two-wheeled world on our website. That being said, it’s hard to pass on the lurid Moto Guzzi MGX-21 prototype that is on display at this year’s EICMA show. A reworked Moto Guzzi California 1400, the MGX-21 is clad in carbon fiber, matte black paint, and red highlights. The carbon fiber disc wheels are a nice touch too (that’s a 21″ wheel up front, by the way), as are the sweeping lines from the front cowl and fenders. We’re finding ourselves a bit smitten with this Moto Guzzi, as true to the brand, it strays from the cruiser norm. We think you’ll like it too, check out the photos after the jump.

Up-Close with the Honda “True Adventure” Prototype

One of the more anticipated motorcycles at the 2014 EICMA show, off-roaders were expecting to see the new Honda Africa Twin in Milan this week. Instead, Honda trotted out what they’re calling the “True Adventure” prototype. Despite not being a production model, the True Adventure prototype looks ready for prime time, and we got a series of “up-close” photos of the machine. Most obvious is the bike’s parallel twin engine, which is rumored to be 1,000cc in displacement. That sizing/weight class seems to jive with the dual front brake discs, which also sports an ABS tone ring. We can expect Honda to have traction control operating off the front and rear wheel speeds as well, and other electronic packages as well.

Money: Motorcycle Racing’s Biggest Problem

What is the biggest problem in motorcycle racing today? Is it the predominant role electronics are playing, ruining the racing? Is it the ever more restrictive rules imposed, killing bike development and the spirit of Grand Prix racing? Is it the lack of competitive machinery, making it impossible for anyone but a factory rider to win a race? Or is it the dominance of the two top manufacturers, driving costs up and discouraging wider manufacturer participation? You can point to all of those and more as being an issue, but they pale in comparison to the real problem the sport of motorcycle racing faces at the moment: Money. Specifically, the lack of it, and the inability of almost everyone involved in the sport to find ways of raising any. All of the ills of both MotoGP and World Superbikes can be traced back to this single failure.

Investcorp Buys 80% of Dainese for €130 Million

A story we have been chasing for some time now, Lino Dainese has finally found a buyer for his namesake company, Dainese. The purchaser is the aptly named private equity firm Investcorp, which is headquartered in Bahrain, and has additional offices in New York, London, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi. Buying 80% of the company’s stock for a reported €130 million, Investcorp’s valuation of Dainese would therefore be set at €162.5 million. The other 20% of the company is retained by Lino Dainese, himself. Dainese’s future goals rest heavily on its airbag technology, as Dainese plans on bringing D-Air to markets outside of motorsport and sport in general. The company also has an aggressive plan to grow outside of Italy, making a bigger push into North America and developing markets.

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen Concept

The second of Husqvarna’s street concepts, the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is a scrambler styled machine that uses the same 373cc single-cylinder engine as the Vitpilen concept. Swedish for “Black Arrow”, the Svartpilen continues the idea that less is more, and applies the concept to a more off-road motif. Not all the dissimilar to the Moab and Baja concepts the Husqvarna showed before its acquisition by KTM, clearly the Swedish brand is keen to tap into its lost history of Steve McQueen and the scrambler motif. Perhaps Ducati’s foray into this space is added motivation, but the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen concept is a bike unique to itself. That might be because the concept machine is based off the KTM 390 Duke, which is an unlikely though budget-friendly donor machine.

2014 April Fools Motorcycle Pranks Round-Up

04/02/2014 @ 11:42 am, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS

2014 April Fools Motorcycle Pranks Round Up jorge lorenzo valencia motogp scott jones 635x423

Another year, and another April Fools Day is in the bag. I am fairly certain that for journalists, April 1st is better than Christmas Day, as it marks the one day where media outlets make the news the wish they could report on daily. And as usual, the imaginations of the motorcycle media pool didn’t fail to disappoint.

David had a wonderful timely piece on Red Bull acquiring the media rights to the MotoGP Championship, ousting Dorna from its position as Bridgepoint Capital cashed out its position. Red Bull has of course had its own issues in the Formula One Championship, and with energy drinks being the new tobacco, the premise was at least plausible.

Speaking of tobacco, we also ran a story about California mandating tabacco-style warning labels for motorcycles, a nod to our more libertarian readers and their growing concerns of “freedom” on two-wheels. Thankfully this story was a complete fabrication and not grounded in any truth, though maybe unfortunately for some, so was David’s piece as well.

How about from the rest of the industry though? In case you missed them, the highlights of April Fools Day are after the jump.

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Bridgestone Releases New Color System for MotoGP

03/07/2014 @ 1:31 pm, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

Bridgestone Releases New Color System for MotoGP Bridgestone BATTLAX MotoGP slick tire colors 635x423

Bridgestone is to introduce an improved method of marking slick tires for 2014. A new system of color-coding will make distinguishing between the various options much easier for fans to identify who is using which tire.

The four different compounds which could potentially be available at each round (two for the Factory Option category, two for the Open category) are identified using four different colors: red for hard, black (or no stripe) for medium, white for soft, and green for extra-soft. After the jump is the Bridgestone press release explaining the color-coding system.

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Suzuki Motor America Shuffles in New Company President

01/17/2014 @ 9:59 am, by Bryan Delohery3 COMMENTS

Suzuki Motor America Shuffles in New Company President Suzuki Logo 635x400

Suzuki Motor of America Inc. (SMAI) has announced that company veteran Takeshi Hayasa has been appointed President to the American subsidiary, replacing the recently appointed Toru Muraki. According to a press release from SMAI, Mr. Hayasa has many years of experience serving as an executive with Suzuki Motor Corporation and his sales experience make him a vital asset to the company.

“We’re glad to have Mr. Hayasaki’s business experience and leadership as we plan for continued growth,” said Larry Vandiver, Suzuki’s Motorcycle/ATV Vice President. “The introduction of new products such as the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS and the Burgman 200 ABS shows just part of our growth plan, and Mr. Hayasaki’s experience will help Suzuki Motor of America with these new products and much more.”

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Nicky Hayden – 6/10

01/10/2014 @ 10:09 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Nicky Hayden – 6/10 david emmett nicky hayden sunglasses motogp scott jones 635x422

In the penultimate part of our restrospective on the season just past, we look back at Nicky Hayden. Here is our view of his final season with Ducati, and his move to Aspar for 2014. To read the rest of our reviews of last year, you can read part 1, Marc Marquezpart 2, Jorge Lorenzopart 3, Dani Pedrosapart 4, Valentino Rossipart 5, Cal Crutchlowpart 6, Alvaro Bautistapart 7, Stefan Bradl; and part 8, Andrea Dovizioso.

It’s been a tough few years for Nicky Hayden. Since joining Ducati in 2009, his results have been in steady decline, along with the performance of the Desmosedici. The 2013 season was the second season in a row where the American did not score a single podium, Hayden finishing in the same position as 2012, with four more points than last year.

This year was probably his toughest with the Italian manufacturer. Hayden found himself battling with teammate Andrea Dovizioso just about all year long, starting from the first race in Qatar. The Ducatis were a match only for each other, not for the other prototypes.

In twelve of the eighteen races, Dovizioso and Hayden finished behind each other, the only other rider they regularly tangled with being Bradley Smith, a MotoGP rookie. More times than not, Hayden emerged as loser of the intra-Ducati battles, finishing behind Dovizioso nine times, and ahead of him only seven times.

The fact that Hayden was not beating his teammate would end up costing him his job. The American was left waiting for a long time for word from Ducati, though by the time the circus rolled up in Assen, Hayden could see the writing on the wall. “I’m not feeling it,” he said, Ducati not even approaching him about a renewal.

At the Sachsenring, he was told there was no place in the factory team for him, though Ducati were keen to keep him in the family, trying to persuade him to switch to World Superbikes to race the Panigale, or else line up in the Pramac team with factory backing.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Stefan Bradl – 7/10

01/09/2014 @ 10:23 am, by David Emmett7 COMMENTS

Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Stefan Bradl – 7/10 Stefan Bradl LCR Honda Qatar MotoGP Scott Jones 635x422

Continuing our look back at 2013, we come to seventh place man Stefan Bradl. Here’s how he fared in 2013. To read the rest of our reviews of last year, you can read part 1, Marc Marquezpart 2, Jorge Lorenzopart 3, Dani Pedrosapart 4, Valentino Rossipart 5, Cal Crutchlow; and part 6, Alvaro Bautista.

In his first season of MotoGP, Stefan Bradl did exactly what was expected of him, learning slowly, building speed, and getting better week after week. He impressed his team, crew chief Christophe ‘Beefy’ Bourguignon expressing admiration at his calm and intelligent approach after the first test on the bike.

He did not crash too often, finished inside the top six on a regular basis, and even got close to his first podium.

After such a strong start, he was expected to do even better in year two. The target was the occasional podium, and to be the best of the satellite riders.

Strong support from Honda meant that Bradl had the tools to do the job, though starting the season using Nissin brakes instead of Brembo put him at a slight disadvantage, the Nissins offering fractionally inferior brake release.

Though Bradl improved, consistently finishing inside the top six, it was not what he or Honda had hoped. The Aragon test in June gave Bradl a boost, trying the same forks which the factory riders had already been using, and switching to Brembo brakes, at least at the front.

Analyst Predicts Indian Will Outsell Victory in 2014

01/08/2014 @ 4:03 pm, by Bryan Delohery14 COMMENTS

Analyst Predicts Indian Will Outsell Victory in 2014 2014 Indian Chief 635x400

According to an analyst from UBS Investment Research, Indian Motorcycles is on track to outsell its sibling company Victory Motorcycles in 2014, its first full year of sales since the company’s recent rebirth.

If this prediction turns out to be accurate, this will be a huge feat for Indian, considering the fact that the American brand only sells three models since its relaunch in August of last year, compared to Victory’s current 15 model lineup.

Ducati to Race as an “Open” Entry in MotoGP for 2014?

01/08/2014 @ 3:23 pm, by David Emmett28 COMMENTS

Ducati to Race as an Open Entry in MotoGP for 2014? Friday Sachsenring German GP MotoGP Scott Jones 01 635x423

After a year of evolution in MotoGP which brought them few rewards, Ducati looks set for a radical shake up for next season. Respected Italian website GPOne.com is reporting that Ducati is considering racing in MotoGP as an Open entry, instead of under the Factory option.

In practice, Ducati would be free of the engine freeze in place for Factory Option teams in 2014, have 24 liters of fuel instead of 20, and twelve engines per season instead of just five. In addition, they have more freedom to test with factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow.

In exchange, they will have to forego the freedom to develop their own software, and will run the spec Dorna-supplied software instead.

Casey Stoner Will Continue His Role as a Test Rider for HRC

12/20/2013 @ 2:54 pm, by David Emmett11 COMMENTS

Casey Stoner Will Continue His Role as a Test Rider for HRC Casey Stoner HRC test 2014 Honda RCV1000R RC213V 13 635x423

Casey Stoner is to continue as test rider for Honda in 2014. The Australian double world champion will once again take the track to help develop Honda’s RC213V during the 2014 season, according to British publication MCN.

Stoner took up his role as test rider in the middle of 2013, after HRC’s regular test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi broke his femur at a Japanese Superbike round. The Australian worked on the 2013 RC213V, as well as a rain-shortened test on Honda’s RCV1000R production racer.

According to the report on MCN, Stoner’s testing schedule for 2014 has yet to be fixed. It appears that Stoner will not be present at the special tire test put on by Bridgestone at Phillip Island, which all three factory teams will attend, but he will take on further testing duties at Motegi later in the season.

Harley-Davidson Issues Clutch Recalls for 2014 Bikes

12/09/2013 @ 2:21 pm, by Jensen Beeler10 COMMENTS

Harley Davidson Issues Clutch Recalls for 2014 Bikes Harley Davidson CVO Breakout FXSBSE 635x423

Harley-Davidson is recalling many of its 2014 models for issues with their clutch systems. Issuing two recalls, the first one affects the FLHRSE, FLHTCU, FLHTK, FLHTKSE, FLHTP, FLHX, and FLHXS models, and centers around the clutch master cylinder possibly allowing air into the clutch system.

Harley-Davidson says that these motorcycles may also have been assembled with an incorrect clutch release plate. Either condition could cause the clutch not to disengage.

2014 MotoGP Rider Line Up Announced, But The 24 Rider Grid Still Leaves Many Questions Unanswered

11/20/2013 @ 4:08 pm, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

2014 MotoGP Rider Line Up Announced, But The 24 Rider Grid Still Leaves Many Questions Unanswered Tuesday Valencia MotoGP Test Scott Jones 18 635x423

Though most of the contracts were settled some time ago, there were still a few question marks on the 2014 MotoGP grid. The official entry list released by the FIM today answers some of those questions, but the answers it gives may yet turn out to be wrong.

The list features 11 entries to be run under the Factory rules, which means 20 liters of fuel, 5 engines per season and the freedom to use proprietary software on the spec Magneti Marelli ECU. The remain 13 bikes will be run as Open entries, which gives them 24 liters of fuel and 12 engines per season, but forces them to use the Dorna-controlled spec software on the Magneti Marelli ECU.

The 2014 season looks set to follow the pattern established in 2013, with Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo likely to dominate.

Of interest is the fact that Marc Marquez has been entered with number 93, rather than the number 1 which the world champion is allowed to use, but this may yet change before the start of the season. Marquez would dearly like to retain 93, but Honda is keen to see him run the number 1 plate.